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Polar bears scavenge on garbage to cope with climate change

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LONDON, July 20 (Reuters) – Hungry polar bears are turning to garbage dumps to fill their stomachs as their icy habitat disappears.

On Wednesday, a team of Canadian and U.S. scientists warned that trash poses an emerging threat to already-vulnerable polar bear populations as the animals become more reliant on landfills near northern communities. This is leading to deadly conflicts with people, the report published in the journal Oryx said.

“Bears and garbage are a bad association,” said co-author Andrew Derocher, a biologist at the University of Alberta. “We know that very well from a brown bear and black bear perspective, and now it’s an issue developing with polar bears.”

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt seals. But with the Arctic warming four times faster than the rest of the world, sea ice is melting out earlier in the summer and freezing up later in the fall. This forces bears to spend more time ashore, away from their natural prey.

To fatten up, the report said polar bears are now gathering en masse around open dumps in places in the Arctic and sub-Arctic such as Russia’s Belushya Guba, and whale bone piles left over from Inuit hunts near Kaktovik, Alaska. Such […]

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